Cyber Crimes: 21st Century Weapon against Women

Just like Women are easy targets for harassment in public, private and work spaces, they have now become a target even on cyber spaces. Blackmailing, coercing, hacking are common actions done in furtherance of the same. Legislative steps have tried to create protections and punishments but whether they are enough or not is debatable. Read along to know more!

Cyber Crimes: The New Generation Crime

The convergence of computer networks and telecommunications facilitated by the digital technologies has given birth to a common space called ‘cyberspace’. This cyberspace has become a platform for major human activities which converge on the Internet of 21st Century. The cyberspace has, in fact, become the most happening place today. The Internet is increasingly being used for communication, commerce, advertising, banking, education, research, and entertainment. There is hardly any human activity that is not touched by the Internet. There is no statutory definition of cyber-crime under Indian laws, including under the IT Act. Cyber-crime can be defined as: “Any illegal act fostered or facilitated by a computer, whether the computer is an object of a crime, an instrument used to commit a crime, or a repository of evidence related to a crime.”[1]

Cyber-crimes includes crime which is specific to computers such as hacking, e-mail spamming and denial of services attacks, as well as conventional crimes committed using a computer, such as theft, fraud, and extortion. As a result, a cyber-crime may invite the application of not the cyber-crime specific legislation, which is the IT Act, but also general criminal legislation, which is the Indian Penal Code, 1860, CrPC, other laws like Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 will be applicable to a case of online money laundering etc. Cyber Crimes have been classified on the basis of nature and purposes of the offense and have been broadly grouped into three categories depending upon the victims of the crime. Cybercrime may be against  

  1. Property,
  2. Government, and
  3. Person.

Cyber Crime against property includes all forms of property. It includes illegal trespass into someone emails or any transmission of critical information outside the organization which may cause severe loss to that organization. The second kind of Cyber-crime is Cyber Crime against Government which includes Cyber Terrorism. The third kind of Cyber Crime includes Cyber Crime committed against a person. It includes various Cyber Crimes like blackmailing, cyber-bullying, Cyberstalking or harassing, sending obscene messages, photos, comments etc through any electronic mail.

Facts and Figures

India ranks third after the US and China as a source of “malicious activity” on the internet, second as a source of “malicious code” and fourth and eight as a source or origin for web attacks and network attacks[2]. According to the latest report National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB), cyber crimes reported in India rose 19 times over the last 10 years (2005-2014), from 481 in 2005 to 9,622 in 2014. Arrest involving cyber crimes also rose nine times from 569 in 2005 to 5,752 in 2014, even as more logged on to the internet.

If we talk about cyber crimes against a person, it includes both men and women. But if we take a glance at the latest record we find that Cyber Crime against women is increasing at a faster rate. Under the IT Act, a total of 5,548 cases reported was computer related offence, of which 4,192 were under Section 66A, which allows for jail terms up to two-three years for sending “offensive messages through communication service” and related offences.[3]

Types of cybercrime against women: Amongst the various cyber-crimes committed against individuals and society at large, crimes that are specifically targeting women are as follows-

  • Cyber –staking
  • Cyber Harassment
  • Cyber Bullying
  • Morphing
  • Email spoofing
  • Cyber Defamation

Cyberstalking– Staking is a problem that many people especially women, are familiar with in real life. But this problem can occur on the internet as well, which is cyberstalking or online harassment. It is true that both men and women may be stalked online, but statistics show that the majority of victims are female. Women are the minority of the internet population and as a result, there is generally fierce competition between male users for their attention.[4]

The term “cyberstalking” refers to situations where someone pursues and repeatedly attempts to contact someone via the internet through various means such as e-mail, chat rooms, instant messaging, bulletin boards, web-based discussion forums, Internet Relay Chat, and/or Usenet groups and the pattern of behaviour results in the victim feeling harassed or threatened.

For example, a cyber stalker could post a controversial or enticing message on the board under the name, phone number, or e-mail address of the victim, resulting in response being sent to the victim.

However, there also have been many instances of cyberstalking by strangers as one can easily get others personal information in few mouse clicks. The fact that cyberstalking does not involve physical contact; it creates the misconception that it is more benign than physical stalking. As the internet becomes an ever more integral part of our personal and professional lives, stalkers can take advantage of the ease of communications as well as increased access to personal information.

Finally, as with physical stalking, online harassment and threats may be a prelude to more serious behavior, including physical violence.

Cyber Harassment: “A course of conduct directed at a specific person that causes substantial emotional distress in such person amid serves no legitimate purposes” or “words, gestures, and actions which tend to annoy, alarm and abuse (verbally) another person.”

There are generally two types of harassment on the net-through electronic mail and during chats on an IRC. These messages take many forms: inappropriate sexually explicit language; unwelcome questions about one’s physical appearance or sexual practices or threatening or hostile messages. Cyber harassment can occur in many forms and some examples are as under:

  • Abusive communications via chat or email, or obscene or disgusting pictures;
  • A threat of death or bodily harm;
  • A series of electronic attacks on internet connection, disconnecting over and over again;
  • Nasty, cruel or defamatory things written about the victim on someone’s website or in a post they make to a discussion group;
  • Threatening mail etc.

E-mail spoofing and web spoofing: E-mail spoofing refers to the practice of changing someone’s name in an email so that it appears as if it came from someone else. Email spoofing is generally used by, spammers and others, with mischievous and malicious intent.

Cyber defamation– Cyber defamation can be defined as any act, deed, word, gesture, etc. in cyberspace, designed to harm a person’s reputation on the internet or even off-line. Just as everyone in the real world has a right to an inviolate reputation, so is the case in cyberspace. This type of crime is similar to cyber venting, where instead of creating a site, e-mail is being used to defame people.

Cyberbullying- It can be defined as “any communication posted or sent by a minor online, by instant messenger, e-mail, Social Networking site, websites, diary site, online profile, interactive game, handheld device, cell phone or other interactive devices that are intended to frighten, embarrasses, harass or otherwise target another minor”. The IT Act, 2000, Section 66-A is applicable and Section 500, 506 & 507 of Indian Penal Code, 1860 are applicable. The accused may be punished for a term which may extend to three years and with a fine. As per Section 77-B of IT Act, 2000 the offence shall be cognizable and bailable while if section 500 of IPC is applied for the said offence under the case of a public servant is non-cognisable, bailable, compoundable with permission of the court.++

Morphing– Morphing means editing the original picture by an unauthorized user. In many cases, it was observed that female’s pictures are downloaded from websites by fake users and again reposted/uploaded on different websites by creating fake profiles after editing them. This amounts to the violation of the I.T. Act, 2000. The violator can also be booked under IPC also for criminal trespass under Section 441, Section 290 for committing public nuisance, Section 292A for printing or publishing grossly indecent or scurrilous matter or matter intended to blackmail and under Section 501 for defamation.

Conclusion

Crime knows no frontiers. The criminal has no sense of patriotism, humanism, or jurisprudence. Globalization, on one hand, is emerging as a challenge for the legal fraternity. India is moving steadily on the path of cyber legislation activity; the country has established itself as the Information Superpower and with the amendment in 2008 in the cyber law, it has made a meaningful effort to address the amassing challenges of the information society but still such little is done and so much is yet to be done as the safety of people in this oceanic internet is very important.

Also read Crimes of Stalking and Voyeurism


[1] Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Samer Hinduja: Computer Crime Investigations in the United States: Leveraging Knowledge from the Past to Address the Future, INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF CYBER AND CRIMINOLOGY, Vol. 1, Issue 1, January,2007.

[2] http://www.cxotoday.com/story/cybercrimes-up-19-times-over-10-years-in-india-ncrb/

[3] http://www.oneindia.com/india/new-wave-cyber-crime-against-women-1894591.html

[4] Barbara Jenson, “Cyber stalking: Crime, Enforcement and Personal Responsibility in the On-line World”, STOP NET ABUSE, <http://www.stopnetabusers.org/resources/links.html>